Ink drawing by Li
In the boundless blue sea, in the foreground, a man floats through a lifebuoy, with arms idly resting over the ring and hands in water, staring at the viewer intensively. To his left behind, a woman swims hard against the surging waves. A quite contrast between them: resting and struggling, watching and doing, etc. The first thing that pops into my mind is these two figures possibly representing different attitudes toward life: watcher and doer.
The enigma of this drawing lies in the background where a person stands on a black islet, facing away from viewers. We don’t know the gender of this person, or what he/she is looking at. However, standing on the islet and elevated above the sea, he/she seems to be in a space different from the sea where the other two are in or trapped. What can it possibly mean then? If a sea is a metaphor for life, culture, or any physical or mental entity with a boundary, then the spatial concepts, In it and Out of it, are inevitably created, which can bring about more fascinating views and interpretations. In this imagery, these two figures are in the sea and part of the sea. Regardless of their states - floating or swimming -, or their attitudes, they have to accept the rules established in the “sea” and survive passively or aggressively. The figure above the sea can mean staying out of the influence of and constraints from the sea. The solid black color of the islet not only creates a focal point in the drawing but also embodies the loneliness and strength that a visionary must have to stay out of the path that most people have taken. This sounds similar to Nietzsche’s Superman theory, in which Superman is an individual who can create his own values through actions and accomplish anything he desires while surpassing Christian morals and values of humanity, transcending pure rationality, being beyond good and evil in that he recognizes that morality only exists concerning human beings.
Of course, this is only one interpretation of this drawing. It's also possible that these three figures represent different states of one person, as depicted in Maslow's Pyramid, from survival to self-actualization.